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English as a foreign language

Living as a German in an increasingly English-speaking world

2016-10-10: Why voting for a third-party candidate in the US presidential election is pointless

Quite a few US Americans are contemplating voting for a third-party candidate like Gary Johnson in this election. That is not a good idea at all.

The thing is, the US electoral system is heavily stacked against any candidate not fielded by the duopoly that has dominated US politics for so many decades. And since Democrats and Republicans collectively make the rules, that is not going to change anytime soon. It is very difficult to even get on the ballot in all states. And then, as nearly all the states (except Maine and Nebraska) implement a “winner takes all” system, the chances to get any electoral votes in those states are slim. At least voting for a third-party candidate is almost certain to not do any damage beyond the damage done by not voting at all; all votes that are not for the winning candidate in the state are discarded.

But it could get worse. Imagine what would happen if any third-party candidate did manage to garner any votes in the electoral college, be it by unexpectedly winning one of the winner-takes-all states, or by winning at least one voting district in Maine or Nebraska (so far, neither of those have ever split their electoral votes but it is indeed possible).

If that happened, and it lead to neither of the duopoly candidates getting the 270 votes needed to win, all hell would break loose, courtesy of the Twelfth Amendment to the US Constitution. The House would then vote on the new President, but all the House members from any one state would collectively only have one vote, regardless of the size of the state. So Wyoming’s just over half a million voters would carry the same weight as California’s almost 40 million voters. And of course all votes cast in the presidential election would be completely cast aside at this point. That includes your vote.

So that is the one outcome you do not want – the President being elected by a thoroughly non-democratic process, which is the House voting one vote per state. Seriously, you have to choose between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. If you don’t, someone else will. There is no alternative this time around; and there probably will not be an alternative to the duopoly anytime soon. If that frustrates you, fine; just be advised that by voting for a third-party candidate at this stage in the game is not going to help. You have to fix he system first. And that is a job for the legislature.

2 replies to “Why voting for a third-party candidate in the US presidential election is pointless”

  1. By Tom Adkins on 2016-10-10:

    Understandable argument, however, in America, our federal system means we vote as citizens of our STATE, not as citizens of the United States. Therefore, in at least 43 states (and DC), there is little doubt about the outcome. In my state, Trump will win. If Hillary wins here, there will be a revolt because that means voter fraud on an epic scale…. so in my case, I have the luxury of voting my conscience, Gary Johnson.
    I will not vote for either of those ASS HATS.

  2. By Tom Adkins on 2016-10-10:

    And as an aside, I would actually prefer the House of Representatives to have a shot at this, though I doubt it would happen. I only wish the Founding Fathers had left it open to their selecting anyone, not just the top three.

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